Arts center on civic complex would cost $12M

Paul Sapounzi of +VG The Ventin Group Architects presents to city council Monday, July 11, 2016 on an arts and culture center for the city. The proposed addition on the civic complex would cost $11.7 million to build and roughly $160,000 a year to maintain. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – “You are off the ground…keep the momentum going.”

Those words from architect Paul Sapounzi of +VG The Ventin Group Architects Monday night as he presented a study on a future arts center for the city.

The council gallery was packed with supporters as Sapounzi shared the “feasible option” and not “pie in the sky” idea of an 8,000 square foot addition to the front of the Cornwall Civic Complex with a separate entrance.

It would use the existing space of the salons in the civic complex as well.

The civic complex addition would cost $11.7 million to build and then roughly $400,000 to $600,000 a year to maintain, which already includes the civic complex operating deficit of $558,000 (arts and culture would add roughly $160,000 a year to maintain).

“Twelve million dollars is a large sum of money but, compared to other facilities, that’s quite modest,” Sapounzi said. He suggested a “big bang” for the buck for a facility would last around five decades.

“We like to create spaces that are in demand,” the architect said, in describing the space as being a little bit undersized.

A close second in the study, in terms of the site alone, was the Cotton Mills area.

Sapounzi explained how the arts center would help to create “generational melting pots” with a mix of workshops, music programs, children’s programs and hands-on demonstrations.

“It’s not a culture of looking at arts and culture but being involved in arts and culture,” Sampounzi said.

He also characterized it as a “one stop shop” for the typical Cornwall family and would “solidify the notion of a common community theatre.”

The project has been in the works since 2010. “It’s been a long road,” Sapounzi told council.

“Wow, this is a big report…how meaty it is,” Coun. Bernadette Clement remarked. “We are sophisticated, we are mature, we will get this done.”

Coun. Carilyne Hebert said she would have liked to see the costing for the other site options in the city. “I think the recommendation is brilliant. It’s on the waterfront. I’m excited,” she said.

Coun. Mark MacDonald explained that the arts center was an election issue that is now being addressed. “There’s an energy on this council and you can feel it,” MacDonald said.

City staff will be bringing back a report to council by October.